Students Design Their Weight in Chairs


Eileen, a high school student in the Center for Architecture Foundation’s Summer Studio, shows off her cardboard chair.

Center for Architecture Foundation

During a week-long, intensive summer studio (07.27-31.09), high school students designed and built their own full-sized corrugated cardboard chairs. The week began with a visit to the Museum of Modern Art’s galleries to study and draw important examples of 20th-century chair designs. Then, students worked in teams to make small cardboard models of some of these chairs, gaining insight into chair construction as well as the possibilities and limits of cardboard as a building material. Studio instructor Eric Ratkowski assigned additional design exercises focusing on design issues such as ergonomics, and instructed students to visit local furniture stores, where the students sketched and gathered new ideas and inspiration.

Ultimately, each student developed and designed his or her own full-sized cardboard chair. Working from their drawings, sketch models, and measurements, the students charretted during the final two days, cutting and gluing cardboard to create a chair that was strong enough to support their own weight — and had some style. The shouts of joy and wide grins that accompanied the students’ first successful seating in their chairs showed they had even surprised themselves with their accomplishments. Several of the chairs will be on display in the Center for Architecture’s “Building Connections 2009” exhibition (See On View: At the Center for Architecture), which showcases student work from the Center for Architecture Foundation’s 2008-09 programs. The exhibition opens on 09.17.09 from 4-6 PM, and runs through 01.09.10.